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Gus Hansen Poker Legend

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Gustav Hansen was born on February 13th, 1974, slightly outside of Copenhagen, and he grew up in and around the capital city of the Scandinavian country. The young Gus was a very sportive boy, constantly playing football, tennis and doing athletics. He even managed to become the Danish tennis champion in his age group. If he wasn't spending his time doing sports, he kept busy in school, especially with maths. The Dane was fascinated by everything that was connected with maths.

Being a fan of maths is obviously a great precondition for a poker player. Gus was introduced to the game while in summer camp, where he often used to go as a kid. He played against the other kids in the camp, mainly for pocket change, and poker made up a great deal of the fun he had during his summers. Later at school he got into contact with backgammon, and that game fascinated him even more. He took the game very seriously and would always be thinking about tactics and ways to improve his game. Hansen hoped to turn backgammon into his profession, and new that, for this to happen, he would have to move to the United States. When he was 19, Gus made the big move to Santa Cruz in California. Surprisingly, he chose to play poker in the local clubs instead of backgammon. However, he didn't get off to a very good start, and as with many other poker players, his early days were defined by falling and getting back on his feet again.

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Getting back up would take a little longer for Gus, as he received a letter from the Danish military and was obliged to serve 9 months as a civil servant. Once his military service was over, Gus returned to the United States, but instead of going back to the west coast, he chose to settle down in New York. Here he started focussing on playing backgammon and Gin Rummy, but he soon decided to quit, seeing as the action in backgammon tournaments was very limited. He had hoped to distinguish himself as a fulltime professional, but despite some successes in the circuit, there just wasn't enough action to make a living from it. As a result, Hansen returned to the poker world after meeting Huck Seed and Phil Laak on the backgammon tour. They introduced him to No Limit Hold'em, and without having much experience in the game, the 22-year old Gus suddenly made his debut at the 1996 World Series of Poker. Although it is often said that the 'Great Dane' is a natural, his WSOP debut wasn't a very successful one. His lack of experience began to show and it didn't take long for him to bust out of the tournament.

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This experience, however, had no impact on Hansen's motivation to delve into the game and find the perfect playing-style to play winning poker. Gus quickly decides that he needs to vary his game, and that's the Gus Hansen we know today. He once said himself: "I've raised with cards less attractive than what's in my toilet after I took a dump in it." This seemed to be the first big step for Hansen's success, who now decided to completely give up backgammon and fully focus on playing poker. He started making more trips to Las Vegas, as there weren't enough good games on the east coast, where Gus was still residing. Gus' playing style resulted in massive swings at the tables in Vegas. Although he would regularly lose, he would often make the money back during the same session. It didn't take long before his opponents described Gus as completely un-readable. He can play every hand like he has Aces, and if you finally think he has nothing, he suddenly turns over the rockets. He spent most of his time playing cash games and every now and then he would play a tournament for a change.

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When the World Poker Tour kicked off in 2002, Gus decided to take a short break from cash games and registered for the Five Diamonds World Poker Classics. This turned out to be a great decision, as the Dane ended up winning the event after taking down a final table with opponents such as Freddy Deeb, John Juanda and Scotty Nguyen. The $556,000 prize money was Hansen's first cash in a big tournament and was definitely his breakthrough in the big poker scene. One year later Hansen would show the world that his win wasn't just a 'lucky shot' and that he was anything but a flash in the pan. In February 2003 he won the WPT L.A Poker Classics, bagging him another $500K in prize money. By now the Dane had also become active in the online business by starting up his own poker room called The site became quite successful, and two years later Betfair took over the room for thirteen million euros. In the meantime, Gus kept on performing in the big poker tournaments. In December 2003 he came 3rd in the Five Diamonds World Poker Classics, and only one month later he secured his third WPT title after taking down the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January 2004. His playing style and his personality had quickly made Hansen one of the most popular players in the poker world.

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Two months later Hansen makes his first money finish at a WSOP event after coming 150th in the Main Event. Surprisingly, this is still one of the best finishes from Gus at a WSOP event to date, as the combination of Gus and the World Series was never a very successful one. Although he did manage to cash twice in both 2007 and 2008, he never really came close to winning a bracelet or reaching a final table. Exactly the opposite is true for his performances at WPT events, and although he hasn't won an event since 2004, he does have a total of 7 final table finishes to his name. Hansen also started spending more time playing online. After selling Pokerchamps, he joined the Full Tilt Poker team, where he has been playing the highest limits the site has to offer. He is a regular guest at the high stakes tables, and even has two tables of his own on the site. One of them is a Pot Limit Omaha deepstack table (Gus City) with blinds of $200/$400, and if that isn't enough, you can always sit down at his No Limit Hold'em table (Gus Heaven) where the blinds are $500/$1000. If we can believe the statistics, Gus made around 1.5 million dollars playing the virtual tables in 2008.

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Despite all the time Gus spends at the cash tables, his tournament successes just keep on coming. In 2007 he takes part in the Aussie Millions event in Melbourne and ends up winning the event, together with $1.2 million in prize money. What was noticeable during this event was that Gus was constantly taking notes about his hands on a Dictaphone. These notes were finally converted into a book called Every Hand Revealed, in which Gus takes you through the tournament hand for hand and describes his thought processes that led him to victory.

But the greatest cash for The Great Dane was still to come. In April 2008 he played the $25,000 WPT Championship Event, and although he was 'only' the runner-up behind David Chiu, his second place was good for $1,714,800, which brought his total tournament winnings to $7.2 million. Nonetheless, he still sees cash games as his main game. I'm sure we've all seen or heard about his famous hand against Daniel Negreanu during an episode of High Stakes Poker season 2. It ended up being one of the largest pots in television history when Hansen's quad fives beat Negreanu's full house for a pot of $575,000.


But these types of pots are no rarity for Gus. According to Doyle Brunson, the Dane is one of the few players who, because of his style of playing, can have swings of millions of dollars in games where this usually doesn't occur. Hansen has always been very open about this by saying that he does regularly incur big losses during these games. He also says that he systematically loses at sports betting, but that thanks to his poker winnings he can easily afford those losses.

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Surely this is one of the reasons why the unpredictable Dane remains to be one of the great personalities in the poker world. Maybe someday he will decide to focus purely on tournaments and manage to finally secure himself one of the coveted bracelets, but until that then, cash games will remain his main source of income.

As long as the cash games keep treating him well, it is likely that we will just see Gus pop up every now and then when a big tournament is being played, but I'm sure we can still expect to see many interesting performances from the 34-year old Dane in the future.

What do you think?

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